In which country does child marriage begin?

USA takes the first step to ban child marriage

The state of Delaware is a pioneer and prohibits the marriage of minors. In the rest of the United States, it remains permitted - and widespread.

In the United States, a network of child rights activists has achieved an historic victory. With Delaware, the first member state has abolished the practice of child marriage, which is widespread in America. "After three years of lobbying, demonstrations and media campaigns, we have achieved this first victory," says the activist Fraidy Reiss.

Underage weddings are widespread in the United States. According to Reiss, a quarter of a million child marriages were concluded across the country between 2000 and 2010. “When I mention that in my lectures, people react in disbelief,” says the director of “Unchained at Last”. The organization is committed to a nationwide ban on child marriage.

For Reiss and her employees, just putting the phenomenon in numbers was months of meticulous work for the authorities. In doing so, they found the majority were girls married to men over 20, including nearly a thousand 12-year-olds in Alaska, Louisiana, and South Carolina. The youngest brides were 10 years old. And they were legally married.

Nine states allow child marriage during pregnancy

Twenty-seven US states do not have any regulations on how old a person must be to marry. On the other hand, where a minimum age is set - often 18 years, even more often 16 years - loopholes still allow child marriages. In these member states, all that is required is the consent of one parent and a judicial exemption. Nine states automatically allow child marriages as soon as a doctor's certificate of pregnancy is available.

«People think: child marriages? Isn't that something that is happening in Tanzania or Bangladesh? ”Says Reiss. She herself was once married as a minor in the liberal state of New York City. At that time, a judge issued the necessary exemption. Most child marriages between 2000 and 2010, however, were in Texas, nearly 40,000. In the same time span, Florida and Kentucky came into being
20,000 minor marriages. In Delaware, where the activists have now reached an initial ban, the minimum age was actually 18. However, with parental consent, even 13-year-olds could marry. This loophole has now been plugged.

Anti-abortion as a reason for child marriages

"It is almost always the parents who force their children into marriage," explains Reiss. She emphasizes that the practice is not only widespread among religious minorities. For example, the activist mentions Orthodox Jews, Muslims and Mormons. Just as often, however, girls from Christian households sought help with their organization. The young people at risk of child marriage thus came from all walks of life.

As a possible reason for the many child marriages, Reiss suspects the anti-abortion widespread in the USA, which can also be found in the liberal-democratic milieu. If a 13-year-old becomes pregnant, the reflex is not infrequently to protect the unborn child - and in short, to marry the mother-to-be.